Disaster Preparedness Guide
A disaster can strike at any time, and older adults can be particularly vulnerable when they do. Incidents such as fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters can change lives in an instant. Furthermore, unexpected man-made threats such as power plant explosions, chemical attacks or bomb threats can be just as dangerous if not more so. However, being ‘disaster ready’ and having a solid plan in place can often help the elderly, their loved ones and their caregivers get through many situations safely. Here are some tips for disaster preparedness for aging adults.
Understand Potential Threats and Plan Escape Routes
Certain incidents such as floods, earthquakes and tornadoes can affect an entire community, while those like a home fire may only impact your family. Know which threats are common in your geographic region, and keep these potential threats in mind when preparing your emergency supplies and planning escape routes. It’s wise to have at least two drivable escape routes in case a natural disaster forces you out of the home. Also, have two ways to get out of each room in the home if a fire or flood occurs. You might consider purchasing escape ladders for multi-story homes, and be sure to practice or reiterate your getaway plans with family members and caregivers twice a year.
Locate Community Resources
Know how to get in touch with important local resources such as the fire department, police, hospitals, emergency shelters and veterinarians for assistance with disaster strikes. Keep these contact lists handy and make copies for everyone in the family. It’s also important to know how to best be informed when there’s advance notice of potential threats such as weather-related concerns. While television and the Internet may be primary resources, when power fails they aren’t much help. Keep a battery-operated radio on hand, and become familiar with NOAA Weather Radio Stations that updates citizens on important alerts, warnings and advice in emergency situations.
Discuss Communication and Evacuation Plans
Disasters can strike without warning, and families may not always be together when they do. This makes discussing your plans for communicating with them in such situations essential. Decide how you’ll keep in touch with them and where you plan to go in emergencies. Having a contingency plan for each possible situation can ease worry and stress on families in these already tense situations. Be sure everyone has a printed copy of the emergency contact list in case of cell phone failures, as they can become unreliable in certain types of disasters.
Make a Disaster Emergency Kit
Depending on the incident’s severity and whether or not your local community is affected, it might be necessary to have enough supplies to survive on for several days. The Red Cross offers emergency preparedness kits online or you can create your own personalized disaster recovery kit. Experts recommend having at least three days’ worth of essentials such as food, water, medication and hygiene supplies. Those with pets will also want to create an emergency kit designed to meet their basic needs and wants in case the home must be evacuated.
Keep some cash, coins and an extra set of keys and cell phone charger in your kit along with photocopies of important documents and identification. Don’t forget about special needs items such as first aid supplies, contact lens solution, batteries and eye glasses. Inspect your supplies annually to ensure everything is within appropriate dates for use and consumption. Be sure everyone in the home knows the location of the disaster emergency kit.
Considerations for Seniors with Special Needs
Older adults with special needs or limited mobility will need to take additional precautions when creating a disaster plan. Those who receive in-home personal care assistance from an agency will need to inquire how caregivers respond in emergency situations and whom to contact in case a disaster strikes. Elderly individuals who are hearing impaired should keep extra batteries for listening devices, and those with visual impairments should keep a cane and whistle nearby to call for help in emergencies. Those who use mobility devices or are bedridden will need to establish a set plan on how to evacuate if necessary. It’s recommended to keep a non-motorized wheelchair on hand to assist those with mobility concerns.
For more specific details and more in-depth information about how to create disaster kits and make detailed plans for the most common emergency situations, please read this Disaster Preparedness Guide for Seniors and Caregivers.